Lady Agnes Gertrude

Agnes was Hugh's second wife. Their fathers worked with each other in Ontario./Dalnavert Archives

Agnes was Hugh's second wife. Their fathers worked with each other in Ontario./Dalnavert Archives

Lady Agnes Macdonald married Hugh on April 26, 1883 in Toronto and nearly a year later while living in Winnipeg they had their son Jack. 

In Winnipeg, Lady Macdonald both organized and attended many events.

One main event she attended was a luncheon in honour of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall’s visit in 1901, where she sat at the head table. The other was when she was one of 105 people at a luncheon at the Government House of Manitoba for King George and Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1939.

But she also had a great impact on Hugh John’s political life.

According to letters Hugh wrote to Prime Minister Charles Tupper, Gertie nudged him to advance his political career and even convinced him to get knighted.

“My only reason for being anxious about the matter [getting knighted] is that I desire my wife’s ambition,” Macdonald wrote Tupper. “Her health is quite poor and getting knighted may restore it.”

Testimony on her well/unwell being

But, people assumed Gertie was paranoid too.

“Once one of Lady Macdonald’s brooches went missing,” said Lin Auerbach, granddaughter of Margaret Jean Baird, a former servant for Macdonalds. “My grandmother said Lady Macdonald threatened the staff she’d fire them and made a huge scene—then she found the brooch stuck on a shawl.”

Auerbach’s grandmother also said Gertie was forgetful.

“She’d say Lady Macdonald had some kind “mental problems”,” she added. “For example Gertie loved to buy hats, ordering several at a time. But when she’d return from the store, she’d forget she ever bought them.”

One of Agnes' most successful events that she hosted was at The Manitoba Hotel a few months before it burnt down./ Dalnavert Archives

One of Agnes' most successful events that she hosted was at The Manitoba Hotel a few months before it burnt down./ Dalnavert Archives

Hugh John would cover the cost at the stores after Gertie insisted she never bought them, Auberbach added.

Dealing with several health issues

While living at Dalnavert, Gertie had two strokes and the family got an in-house nurse named Hattie for her.

“Hattie would take care of my grandparents and family,” said Gertie’s grandson. “She lived at Dalnavert for many years.”

Lady Macdonald passed away in the summer of 1940. Her funeral was at All Saint’s Anglican Church. She’s buried alongside her husband and son at St. John’s Cemetery.

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